Oh s**t!October 3, 2010 No Comments
Most mums and dads will, at one time or another, have been there. There you are, entertaining at home, everyone sitting around passing the tea and muffins. All lovely, lovely. Then little Jenny drops her toy on her toe. Instead of the usual wailing – and probably in an attempt to seem unruffled in front of her peers – she looks around and, horror of horrors, exclaims ‘Oh s**t, that hurt’.
Granny almost drops her tea. The other parents don’t know WHERE to look and attempt to stifle their giggles, while mummy and daddy are left trying to (a) defend themselves (‘Don’t know where she got that!’) and (b) simultaneously reprimand little Jenny for this misdemeanour!
Sticks and stones, as they say, may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. That is, of course, unless they come from the mouths of babes and my own babe in particular. I’ll never forget the first day my now four-year-old first let me know that the word ‘bum’ was preferable to – and certainly funnier than – bottom. The look of shock on my face was enough for her to see that I was a little taken aback and ‘bum’ was therefore filed away in her ‘Ways to Embarrass My Mummy’ folder.
How could I teach a toddler, who was learning to experiment with language, that some words are better left unsaid?
Why do they do it?
What is it about children and the savage joy they get from being rude? Little ones learn very quickly that being rude gives them a sense of power over adults. They see that certain words will elicit an almost magical response, even when they don’t actually know what those particular words mean.
Most rude expressions in kids will relate to the area below the waist but, in reality, kids are unlikely to know anything about sex. What they do pick up, however, is that saying certain things in public isn’t acceptable…and that makes it exciting. It’s all part of the mysterious world that adults keep secret from kids, which just makes the child want to know more about it. Use of inappropriate words is all part of exerting control and influence over the world and the use of such words has a wonderful way of making things happen.
When the adult response is ‘No, that’s naughty’, then it won’t take long for your kiddie to turn the whole experience into a game. For reasons that at such a young age they really won’t understand, they realise that some words in the language have a strength and power that others don’t have. And, being the age that they are, they begin to push the boundaries and experiment with these words to elicit a response.
And, let’s state the obvious. Young children have an uncanny ability to pick up words—all words—that they hear. In many cases (and we have to admit it), our kids who use mildly rude words such as ‘s**t’ did probably hear it at home. Most children can hear the grass grow and, even though you may think that a ‘naughty word’ has crept out inadvertently at home, you tend to comfort yourself with the fact that they didn’t hear you. Home apart, though, TV, the playground, the street and childcare are also equally guilty. But don’t beat yourself up about it. No matter how much you try to protect them from it, your little angel is at some point going to utter something downright demonic, no matter how much you try to shield them from it.
Parents often think that a four or five-year-old who uses ‘naughty’ words is being malicious, but, in fact, children of this age are naturally fascinated by power and they really just want to experiment with it. The same goes for inappropriate actions. A child only needs to blow wind or ‘poof’ once by accident and have everyone rolling about the place to turn the whole thing into a party piece and file it away for future reference, usually when mum and dad are entertaining!
So what is the best way to deal with it?
Well, first of all it’s vital to remember that overreacting will almost certainly result in an increase in the behaviour, so keep it calm and straight to the point. For example, saying something like, ‘You know we don’t use language like that’ will get the message across an won’t give your child a sense of having waved the magic ‘power wand’. Equally, don’t make a song and dance about it and, above all, difficult and all as it may be, try not to laugh, no matter how strong the urge is!
Your little one’s first cursing/inappropriate language episode may initially seem funny, but don’t laugh. Swearing can get them into big trouble when they go to school, so it’s better to teach them now so they don’t have to suffer the consequences later.
While there are many ways parents can help children avoid bad language, there is no substitute for avoiding it yourself. Trying using alternative exclamations like ‘blast’, ‘goodness’, or ‘for crying out loud’, or silly terms—malarkey, hogwash, which may get your kids to laugh and make them more likely to want to imitate them.
Most children under three won’t comprehend that certain words are unacceptable. Often, ignoring the offence may be the best defence when dealing with the very young. But after their third birthday, they’re more likely to understand that some words are naughty. So take action immediately. Get down on your knees, look your child directly in the eye, and tell him, ‘That’s a word that we don’t use in our family’. Make the words—not the child—the culprit to give him a chance to move away from the behaviour.
If your child persists in using such language, show him you mean business with disciplinary action. For a four-year-old, that may mean a short period of ‘time out’ in their bedroom, or taking away a favourite toy. Kids, who are a little older, would benefit more from time spent in their rooms than the removal of toys.Tags: behaviour, kids, language, mum, naughty, PARENTING, tantrum, toddlerARTICLES, PARENTING, TANTRUMS AND MORE